A few narrative excesses aside: trenchant, funny, occasionally profound, and always surprising.

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A HOLE IN THE EARTH

Mid-life crisis hardly describes the maelstrom that engulfs history teacher Henry Porter in his 39th summer, traced by Bausch (Almighty Me, 1991, etc.) in his finest and most complete novel yet..

Henry's summer should be as aimless as ever—days at the horse track (a passion that putatively cost him wife and daughter), evenings with girlfriend Elizabeth, the occasional existential curveball that his own cigar-chomping personal Fates might hurl his way. But his Fates—one of Henry's strategies to deny that life might have meaning, and that he might have responsibility for it—have more spitballs, sliders, and change-ups than Henry can imagine. Just as the season begins, daughter Nicole shows up unannounced. Five years ago, when he last saw her, she was an obese adolescent; now she's a svelte, vegetarian, high-school graduate. Clumsily, Henry welcomes her—then deserts her for the racetrack. Gambling success equals failure at paternal love, as he cashes in on the daily double. Although he feels guilty about the botched reunion and Nicole's reaction to it, what he should've done always comes to him too late, his mulish feelings lagging significantly behind his actions. A few nights later, the Fates throw a change-up: his girlfriend Elizabeth is two months pregnant. A teacher also, and as ambivalent to commitment as Henry is, Elizabeth knows only that she wants the baby. Little disasters whirl into larger chaos when, after agreeing to marriage, Elizabeth rejects Henry utterly. Henry becomes a “stalker”; an offhanded lie told to protect Nicole gets her assaulted instead by a cute but psychotic white supremacist; and in almost wooing Elizabeth back, he nearly kills her. In the end, Henry must confront the roots of the pain he causes those he loves—and maybe even figure out the meaning of his life.

A few narrative excesses aside: trenchant, funny, occasionally profound, and always surprising.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-100529-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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